Deep and Wide Surveys with the Murchison Widefield Array

The Murchison Widefield Array is a low-frequency radio telescope and precursor to what will be the world's largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometer Array. In 2017 it was upgraded to double its resolution, and a series of large surveys were undertaken to search the sky across a wide frequency range. This supercomputing project supports the surveys to process the raw data from the telescope into useful images of the sky

Principal investigator

Natasha Hurley-Walker
Magnifying glass

Area of science

Radio Astronomy

Systems used

Magnus and Zeus

Applications used

WSClean, Aegean, swarp, plus various tools from the mwa-reduce package
Partner Institution: International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research / Curtin University | Project Code: pawsey0272

The Challenge

Radio astronomy data is large, about 40GB per two-minute observation, and these projects have collected thousands of observations. Supercomputers are required to process the data into useful images, and then knit those images together to make deep and wide mosaics of the sky.

The Solution

The MWA’s flagship survey, GLEAM, laid the foundation for how these surveys can be processed. With the upgrade to the MWA, the data are now more challenging to process, and there is a greater volume, but the basic steps are the same. Since 2017 we have been laying the groundwork; in 2020 the PI achieved funding for the survey; since then we have been processing data.

The Outcome

It would be impossible to process the petabytes of data taken by these surveys without supercomputing resources. Pawsey offers the required storage, fast data access, processing capabilities, and onward archiving required to make these surveys possible. This also pathfinds toward the resources and approaches required to make the SKA successful.

Fig 1. An extract of a 200-230MHz region produced from the co-addition of four nights of GLEAM-X observations. We also highlight the spiral galaxy M83 at four of the five GLEAM-X bands. The synthesised beam of each zoomed M83 image is shown as a white ellipse in the lower right hand corner.